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Historical Highlights

The National Security Act of 1947

July 26, 1947
The National Security Act of 1947 Image courtesy of Library of Congress James Wadsworth, Jr. of New York followed in his father footsteps when he was elected to the House of Representatives. There are more than 200 combinations of parents and children who have served in Congress.
Signed into law on this date, the National Security Act of 1947 incorporated disparate defense agencies under a comprehensive bureaucratic structure. Proposed by President Harry S. Truman, the legislation created a National Security Council of seven permanent members, a permanent staff headed by an appointed civilian Executive Secretary, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In addition, the act coordinated the activities of the Secretaries of War and the Navy under a Secretary of Defense. Legislators recognized the inherent difficulties in policing an agency that, by its nature, operated under the cloak of secrecy. But they were eager to boost intelligence capabilities to prevent another Pearl Harbor-style attack. After the bill’s House passage, floor leader Representative James W. Wadsworth of New York remarked, “It [the CIA] will be a gathering point for information coming from all over the world through all channels concerning the potential strength of other nations and their political intentions.” Wadsworth continued, “There is no secret every nation in the world is doing the same thing.” Limited intelligence oversight functions rested in the newly created Committee on Armed Services. In 1977, with the creation of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the House gained greater oversight of the U.S. intelligence community.

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